Martin O’Neill named a 34-man Ireland squad on Thursday that was, for the most part, light on surprises.
As expected, James McCarthy has been included after completing an hour in Everton’s League Cup defeat to Chelsea on Wednesday night, while the ties have come too soon for captain James McClean to be considered for selection.
Jon Walters’ is another name conspicuous by its absence (though O’Neill did hint that could change depending on his progress in the next week or so), while there are recalls into the squad for Matt Doherty, Alan Browne and Paul McShane.
So while there can be little argument as to the players included, there are those omitted that may, rightly or wrongly, may feel a little hard done by. Now is hardly the time for O’Neill to be taking risks, granted, but that won’t stop some players making a case for inclusion:
Declan Rice (West Ham United). Rice looked set to play a big part in West Ham’s season after a number of strong early performances, but the 18-year-old has fallen victim to Slaven Bilic’s personnel tinkering in the face of a survival scrap. Rice is still a big part of the under-21 squad, however, and will have his eyes firmly set on the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Eoin Doyle (Oldham Athletic). In a squad that has recently added three markedly inexperienced strikers at international level all in one go it’s hard to make the case for another one, but Doyle is arguably the most in-form Irish striker out there at this moment in time. Since joining Oldham on loan from Preston, the 29-year-old has scored ten goals in eleven games for League One side Oldham. Granted, the standard isn’t particularly high in relative terms, but it does show that he knows where the goal is.
Roy O’Donovan (Newcastle Jets). The well-travelled former Cork City man has seemingly found a new lease of life in Australia. Since leaving England, the 32-year-old has played in Singapore and Indonesia before his move down under, first with Central Coast Mariners and now with Newcastle Jets. His debut for the latter produced a hat-trick, and has since gone on to score five goals in three games in addition to 19 in 45 with his previous club.
That being said, his age, the A-League’s standard and the small sample size will all count against him.
Andy Boyle (Preston North End). It speaks volumes that Paul McShane is back in the squad and Boyle appears to have fallen off the radar. An unfortunate victim of Preston’s managerial change in the summer, the former Dundalk man has (along with new signing Kevin O’Connor) featured in just one match under new Preston boss Alex Neil – a 3-2 League Cup defeat to Chelsea in August.
Barring a January move away from Deepdale in January, it’s difficult to see a way back into the Irish setup for Boyle at this point in time.
John Egan (Brentford). At the beginning of the year it seemed as though Egan was well on his way to cementing a place in the Ireland squad. He was in flying form for club Brentford, and his first cap against Iceland in March was set to be the first of many. However, just a few short months (and the emergence of Kevin Long) later, and Egan is fighting to stay relevant.
Injuries and loss of form have seen the Corkman come in and out of the starting eleven, and while he has been playing regularly again this season, he still seems to have a job convincing O’Neill he is worth a recall.
On this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we speak to Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson about his thoughts on his side’s season and the future of League of Ireland football, and we look ahead to the final day Premier Division survival battle.